Tea tree oil is out and out amazing-its benefits range from fighting off bacterial infections to nail fungus to working as a fantastic air freshener to speeding up the healing process and boosting immunity.
Uses of tea tree oil don’t stop there. It is a common additive to cosmetics such as shampoos, soaps, conditioners, lotions, toothpaste, and so much more. Several studies have shown that it is excellent for the skin, hair and nails, and overall health.
And while tea tree oil may be extremely beneficial and safe for you, can the same be said for your dog? is tea tree oil safe for dogs?
Just how much tea tree oil can affect your dog depends on its concentration. If you are using a product that has a limited percentage of tea tree oil (0.1-1%), it should be safe for your furball. However, high concentrations of pure extract in undiluted forms can be dangerous, even lethal.
Before you toss out everything that has tea tree oil in it, let’s understand what it is, how it affects our pets, and whether it offers them any benefits. We’ll also cover how you can use it safely and what you can do in the event of tea tree oil poisoning.
What is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil is a medicinal oil extracted from the leaves of a tree variety found in Australia called the Melaleuca Alternifolia. The oil has many applications and can be used in its pure form or be diluted with other products.
It makes for a great disinfectant that can be used in sanitizers, antiseptics, or even as a mouthwash, provided it is used correctly.
Is Tea Tree Oil Safe for Dogs? (And Melaleuca Oil?)
Essential oils are compounds of plants extracted via cold press or steam. They are intended to carry the ‘essence’ of a plant, be it its medicinal properties or scent, in highly concentrated quantities. This is why essential oils, including TTO, are not meant to be ingested. Most essential oils, if consumed in their undiluted form, are harmful. TTO is no different.
Products that are low concentartion of tea tree oil are not typically a problem for pets. Pure or undiluted tea tree oil is dangerous and should never be used on the skin.
Undiluted tea tree oil is toxic and is lethal to dogs.
So yes, 100% pure tea tree oil is harmful to animals. It is an easily absorbed oil which means that its entire quotient of toxic terpenes is absorbed by your pet when exposed to tea tree oil. This is why most products only contain a small percentage (1-2%) of the oil. This is also why using pure tea tree essential oil is never recommended, not even for humans.
Dogs tend to lick themselves when something irritates their skin. This means that your furry friend can ingest the oil when grooming himself. So if you’re considering applying tea tree oil to treat scabies or another skin infection on your canine buddy, consult a vet first.
In Australia, where the oil originated, the bottle and packaging have safety warnings that inform people of the what and how. Here in the US, however, the FDA has made no such compulsion which means that people often use it incorrectly and unintentionally harm their pets.
Before we go further, we’d like to restate that tea tree oil is used in a large variety of products at varying levels of concentration. This makes it imperative to understand how much or how little you should use around your house or on your dog to avoid an accident.
Benefits of Tea Tree Oil (TTO)
Before even considering experimenting with something as potentially toxic as tea tree oil on your dog, it is always better to first consult with a veterinarian. That said, let’s explore whether tea tree oil has any tangible benefits for dogs.
Yes, tea tree oil has compounds that fight skin conditions of all kinds, including rashes, dry canine skin, eczema, or an itchy, sensitive scalp, as well as fungal infections. To treat such conditions, you’re required to dilute tea tree oil in water or fatty oils like coconut.
Since TTO doesn’t mix well with water, your first preference should be a carrier oil. Don’t have coconut? Try almond oil or olive oil. To ensure that your pet doesn’t lick the application, you can use a dog cone (Elizabethan collar) or wrap the area in medical gauze.
Ticks and Fleas
Tea tree oil has a rather pungent smell that deters critters like ticks and fleas. Not only will current infestors abandon your pet, but any you’re likely to encounter on a walk through a tall grassy area will be discouraged from hopping onto your four-legged buddy. A safe mixture would be a teaspoon of tea tree oil combined with a cup of water or oil. Add to a spray bottle, shake well, and spritz-just not near the nose, eyes, or mouth, please.
If you didn’t remember to spritz before the walk and are anxious when you return, you can mix a drop or two of TTO in a basin of water and dip your dog’s paws into it. Remember to wash off with warm water and soap, so there’s nothing left for him to lick later.
Vets say the strength of the TTO once diluted to safe concentrations is not enough to prevent ticks and fleas – and traditional methods are preferred.
Don’t be fooled by the name-we’re not talking about the wrigglies in intestines. Ringworm is, in fact, a nasty fungal infection. You’ll recognize it by the horrible red circle-like lesions it forms on your pet’s skin-anywhere from belly to under-paws to inside his ears.
Some people claim that pet safe diluted tea tree oil can be effective to treat this condition. Vets often think differently – and encourage you to call them before any treatmetn is administered.
Love your dog but can’t stand the stench from its ears? Chances are that your furball has an ear infection or bacteria stink. You’ll know when you lift the ear flap and see all sorts of colors, guck, wax, matted hair, and such. If the infection has moved to severe levels, then your pooch will probably whine and shake their head or try to paw their ear constantly.
To treat an actual ear infection, see a Vet. But if it is just ear gunk and discharge you can clean the issue away. To treat excess bacteria it starts with cleaning. Many people use salt water or gentle detergent.
Others sometimes use tea tree oil in pet safe low doses. You’ll need a drop of TTO and 4-5 drops of (heated) olive oil. Use gauze or a cotton pad to clean the ear, and then put a drop of the solution (close to but not inside the ear canal.) And if you’re tempted to use more of the solution, don’t. The last thing you want is for the TTO to drip down the sides of your furballs face.
Again TTO is a poison in high doses – so use a pet safe formula to ensure that there is no risk of tea tree oil toxicity.
Mange Mite Treatment
You might have seen pictures of rescue dogs without any fur. Ever wondered why that is? It’s mange. Mites are tiny, microscopic critters that burrow into the skin and live there. They cause uncontrollable itching and, eventually, hair loss. Baldness can be permanent if the damage is extensive and scar tissue is substantial. It gets worse.
Extended exposure to mites can affect your pet’s immunity levels too. Humans can catch it as well. Some people treat mite infestations with TTO. The safe concentration of tea tre eoil or malaleuca oil is considered by some Vets to be too low to assist in treating mite or flea management.
If you buy dog products with tea tree oil, they will already be diluted correctly. So, read the instructions and precautions (if any) and use the product as explained by the manufacturer. If in doubt, check the label of products with TTO to see if the concentration is less than 2%.
When storing any or all tea tree oil products at home, keep them in a safe place. Please don’t leave it in an area like a kitchen countertop where it can be accidentally knocked over. Don’t keep it anywhere that is accessible by your pet, like your bedside table. A high enough shelf or inside a cabinet where your pet cannot reach is a good bet.
If your curious furry friend ingests any amount, no matter how little, contact your vet or emergency pet helpline immediately. Toxicity occurs anywhere between two to eight hours, and the faster you act, the better the prognosis.
Whenever using TTO near or on your pet, use precautions like the Elizabethan collar to avoid accidental ingestion.
Before applying TTO or a TTO-based solution (DIY or store-bought), please check for open wounds. You do not want TTO to enter your dog’s bloodstream.
Never use TTO in any form, even a marketed product, for a pet under six weeks old.
If you must use TTO on your dog for any reason, always do a patch test first. It’s easier to deal with a skin rash than liver failure or paralysis.
Signs of Tea Tree Oil Poisoning
Symptoms of tea tree oil poisoning can include the inability to walk correctly (ataxia), shaking or tremors, excessive drooling (hypersalivation), lowered body temperature (hypothermia), and weakness. In extreme cases, you’ll see life-threatening indications such as seizures, paralysis, or coma.
Please remember that all dogs will react differently to TTO exposure or ingestion, and the degree of the symptoms will vary depending on the quantity of TTO concentration. If you have even the slightest doubt, call your vet. Please don’t wait.
Treatment for Tea Tree Oil Poisoning
There is no antidote for tea tree oil poisoning. If it’s a minor issue like a skin rash, you can wash the area with warm water and soap. If your pet ingested a bit, your vet might attempt to flush out your dog’s stomach.
All essential oils, when consumed, irritate the digestive system. In particular, it can cause liver damage. If your pet has consumed TTO, your vet might prescribe medication to protect your pet’s liver. You’ll also need to increase hydration levels. However, if the exposure or ingestion quantity were on the higher side, the prognosis might not be positive.
A well-intentioned pet parent might decide to go ‘natural’ with their pet’s medication. It’s not unheard of. We do it to ourselves too.
After all, the world is becoming more and more conscious about the side effects of synthetic products, including medicines. And while that is wonderful, you only want what’s best for your dog, so be careful.
Conduct thorough research. Understand the effects natural remedies can have on you and your pet.
Follow instructions on dosage and dilution. And always, always know what to do in case of accidental ingestion.
Be it their pink paws and cute noses, sorrowful expressions, and softness or their antics, pets steal our hearts in seconds.
We welcome them into our homes, and they become part of our family. We know that they won’t be with us for long. A decade, maybe a little more at best. Enjoy each precious moment with your furball and ensure they are by your side for their entire natural life by giving them a safe environment in which to thrive.